Lifestyle & Travel

Published on November 1st, 2013 | by Kelly Rose Bradford


Lone Parents Mean Business: Ding dong, Avon calling

When Vanessa Jackson became a single mum in 2009, she was already working part time as an Avon rep. Her change of circumstances meant she needed to be more financially secure – but could she really make a full time living by selling beauty products door to door?

Were you worried about managing financially when you became a single parent?

Yes! I was working, but only part time as an Avon rep, and I ended up losing the house. We were homeless for a month, and I was sofa surfing with anyone who would take me in! To make things worse, my father had died one month before my husband left. Ten months later, I had a nervous breakdown and had to put myself in hospital. I was left feeling that I wouldn’t be a good enough parent to my children, and I had no other family for support.

How did your children deal with it?

My children, Daniel and Mary, (now 16 and 13)  were amazing. They delivered and collected my Avon brochures, helped me with new recruits and my daughter even came with me to make sure I explained the processes properly. My kids were very supportive and with the help of counselling from school, we all managed to get through.

What was your lightbulb moment where work/retraining/changing career was concerned?

I was lying in bed with my kids one night at my ex-husband’s flat. I realised then that I needed to set an example to my children and make them feel proud of me. It was time for me to turn the tables and really make a go of my career.

Was working around your children the main priority?

Yes. After the traumatic 2008/2009 period, my daughter developed Eosinophilic Colitis. We had to go to  Great Ormond Street hospital and see consultants on a regular basis. When she was poorly I had to be at home with her. Avon was the only job that offered me a steady income and the flexibility to work my own hours. I was around to help my kids with their homework as well as feed them dinner! When your children are at school there needs to be someone around should the teacher call – no other job would have given me the same freedom and flexibility.

What childcare arrangements did you have?

None! I could not afford a child-minder, but the beauty of my business meant that I could work only when my children were at school.

How did you get started?

I first started as an Avon Representative 11 years ago before I had children. The flexibility of being able to be your own boss really appealed to me and I had always loved their products. After my separation, I called my area manager and said that I wanted to earn more money and further my career. This was when my sales leadership role began – I started by getting some friends to sign up and then headed to my children’s school. The next day, five people turned up all wanting to become reps! I got off to a flying start and have never looked back!

What difference has your job made to your family life?

As a single mum, the greatest advantage is that I choose my own hours and am always be there for my children. I no longer worry about having to pay the monthly bills and never have the stress of not being able to support my family

How is your work/life balance?

Now that I am a sales leader, I do tend to work a bit too much, but it is only because I love it so much! My business takes me all over the country meeting new people, and it has very much become my social life too.

What is your best bit of advice for lone parents?

Stand up and get yourself off the ground because you are the inspiration that your children need.

It is OK to cry but make sure that you talk to your children and tell them what you are worrying about. You will be surprised how easily they can find a solution to a problem that you cannot get past.

Also don’t be afraid to start something new. If you really believe in something then it will happen. Ask questions and make sure you seek advice from your friends and family.

How do you feel you are viewed by society as a single mum?

I am aware that there are some negative perceptions of single parents in society and how they can be treated differently, however I have never let this worry me or impact on my children.

Do you think there should be more help for single parents who want to get back into work?

I feel people should be encouraged to work and more help should be given  – it can be perceived that it can be financially more beneficial not to work. For me, I am looking at the bigger picture and want to be a role model for my children and and be financially independent.

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About the Author

Kelly Rose Bradford

is a London-based journalist and broadcaster, writing for the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sunday Telegraph, and a host of women's magazines. Her robust opinions and feisty debating skills make her in demand as a social commentator, regularly guesting on ITV's This Morning programme, and across many radio stations, including 5 Live and BBC Radio London.

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